People come for many reasons to tour New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings:
to see democracy
to learn about how
Parliament has an Open House programme for visitors, with professional guides leading the tour groups. On tour, visitors see Parliament Buildings in a special New Zealand way. Some of the highlights are: Parliament House, a beautiful example of neo-classical Edwardian architecture; select committee rooms; the debating chamber of the House of Representatives; the Victorian Gothic Parliamentary Library and Reading Room; the Legislative Council Chamber, where our upper house met until 1951. When the House is not sitting, visitors are taken to the floor of the debating chamber.
The tours describe our political system, weaving history and politics together showing how law and public policies are made. Tours also cover art, culture, technology, and the many stories that bring Parliament to life.
In Parliament House, there is a Visitor Centre which includes a shop, and visitors are welcome to purchase gifts unique to New Zealand's Parliament.
Indoors or outdoors, Parliament offers interest and history. The grounds have seen some of the most important events in New Zealand’s changing democracy, and offer views of many other important institutions of government. Other heritage areas of Thorndon, the earliest-settled part of Wellington, are within easy walking distance.
Some aspects of Parliament’s life can be seen from the outside too – the plaque commemorating the move of the capital from Auckland to Wellington is on the north-east corner of Parliament House, not far from another plaque noting the centenary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. The statue in front of Parliament House is the Right Honourable Richard John Seddon and John Ballance is in front of the Parliamentary Library, both leaders of the New Zealand Government. The James Cook memorial is near the Beehive.
Visit Parliament through its professional education services. Every year, over 10,000 students visit Parliament, where they get very special treatment. When teachers book a time for their visit, they are asked to describe the education outcomes they are aiming for and to set the scene for the particular aspects they want to explore. While many want a general introduction to the role of Parliament as New Zealand’s central democratic institution, others use the buildings and their functions to illustrate parts of the science, language, technology and art curricula.
Guided tours are on offer nearly every day (see box below). Bookings are necessary for groups over ten people or those with a special interest – telephone Parliament first. Pre-booking school tours is essential to get the best out of a trip to Parliament.
to 5.00pm (last tour departs 4.00pm)
Find out more!
Updated 4 March 2006
Photo source: Lindsay Haas
Wellington, near the geographic centre of New Zealand, has been its capital city since 1865. And as Beth Bowden, Deputy General Manager of Parliamentary Service when this DecisionMaker Guide was begun, has said "...Parliament Buildings are at its heart, the physical symbol of the seat of government and the home of our democracy".
Andrew Afeaki, a Tongan who studied at Victoria University, returned to the capital from time to time. He is here in Parliament grounds, as many are, pictured with Prime Minister Richard Seddon, known first a century ago as King Dick. King Dick had imperial ambitions for New Zealand in the neighbouring Pacific Islands - and Afeaki tells us a modern Tongan view of that colonial period.
Go nearby into the neighbourhood, and find statues of other past leaders, such as Peter Fraser, and Keith Holyoake.
The Welcome to Wellington from the providers of www.wellingtonNZ.com says "As the capital, Wellington is the seat of national heritage. The country's historic Parliament Buildings form a starting point for exploring New Zealand's nationhood. The experience carries through the entire city and wider region, with a network of historic places and museums.".
That is from Absolutely Positively Wellington in their 2995-06 briefing for the travel trade.
Visit Parliament and its neighbourhood, go further afield, and find out more!